album reviews

7", 10", 12" reviews

compilation reviews

remix reviews


Synthetic Pleasures 1
- Tamara Palmer

In URB, Issue No. 27, April 1996.


(Moonshine) Iara Lee's Synthetic Pleasures documentary has become an ongoing project. The film, a look at artificial realities within society, has played to such prestigious film festivals as Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin and has spawned a clothing line, a web site, and now a series of compilations showcasing the soundtrack. Synthetic Pleasures Volume One is a bit of a time capsule, highlighting some wonderful tracks from the past couple of years. The driving sounds of techno and the quality of good ambient music perfectly complement the otherworldly quality that the film takes on.

It begins with Young American Primitive, whom we haven't heard from much in the past two years but are reminded why we were interested in the first place. "Over and Out" is creative, a little bit funky, and a little bit crazy with its random vocal sample of a poetry reading of Rudyard Kipling's "If." Brings back traumatic memories if you had to memorize it in the fourth grade...

From there, it's a trip into some serious recent classics, like Single Cell Orchestra's phenomenal journey in "Transmit Liberation," the gentle lunar ambience of Terre Thaemlitz's "Hovering Glows," and "Cantamilla" by Tranquility Bass, soulful, funky, emotive and one of my personal favorites of all time. Round it out with contributions from Human Mesh Dance, John Cameron (the only "soundtracky" sounding track), Hardfloor, Banco de Gaia, Tylervision, and Jaydee, and you've got an all killer, no filler soundtrack.

Though recent films of late have begun to employ this kind of music in soundtracks, Synthetic Pleasures avoids the wack Mortal Combat-type techno from artists like Traci Lords and Moby and instead digs deeper into less familiar, more underground territory to find some real gems.